Can 'Fear the Walking Dead' Overcome Its Dumb Character Problem?
***Spoiler Warning: This post features discussion of events through last night’s “The Dog.” If you’re not caught up, run!
It’s really difficult to watch AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. While the new series gives us an interesting view of the ensuing chaos the beginning of a zombie apocalypse might bring, because we already know about the walkers, it’s nearly impossible to look at things from its characters’ perspectives. Does our foreknowledge give us an unreasonable advantage, or are we simply smarter than Maddie, Travis, Alicia — most of the characters we’ve met thus far? Even if you’d never read about zombies, wouldn’t the appearance of the walkers alarm you enough not to approach them?
That’s the crux of a mild disagreement between myself and the mister each week so far, one I’m pretty sure I’m winning, but hey — maybe you can help us settle it. I’m of the opinion that most people could not be as astoundingly dumb as this particular group. I feel like if I saw someone shot over and over, still rising up after falling down dead a time or two, I wouldn’t attempt to reason with that (or any similarly oddly-behaving) individual. If someone did nothing but growl, chase and grab at me, eyes glazed over — bloody face/mouth or not — I’d have no interest in trying to reach that “person,” regardless of whether she watched my kids when they were little. You see the things that Maddie, Nick, Travis and Alicia have been witness to, know you should get out of town because something is having a bizarre effect on people, then JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF TOWN. LET SOMEONE ELSE TRY TO REASON WITH THE
ZOMBIES SICK PEOPLE. The mister keeps reminding me my reactions are because I already know what I know; the Fear characters have no idea what (who) they’re dealing with. But, I maintain there are enough warning signs to know there are certain people who shouldn’t be approached.
It did pop into my brain while watching last night that The Walking Dead original flavor had some such incidents (Herschel, Andrea, to name a couple), but even though they were each dealing with immediate family members and major emotional trauma, they at least had the sense to keep their zombified relatives at more than arm’s length. Nearly every episode so far, a Fear character has been — or almost been — overtaken because of his/her impossibly foolish disbelief at what their own eyes were seeing; I don’t know if it’s my mommy instinct or what, but if I’d seen one of the early walkers approaching, I’d be heading in the opposite direction. Quickly. Come on, people — you see a person apparently eating a dog, GTFO. You spy neighbors acting strangely and seemingly attacking each other — don’t let any family member out of your sight alone. Another neighbor does her best Frankenstein’s monster walk, reaching for you and growling through the fence, you shoot off her mothereffin’ head —thank you very much. You know there are such “people” roaming through the neighborhood; don’t go sit in your car — which is blocked into the driveway — with your windows down, essentially trapped, and a sitting duck. While by the end of “The Dog” Maddie started coming around, she spent most of the hour veering between some sort of awakening and deliberately obtuse. Don’t even get me started on “weak” Travis, the alterna-world’s would-be-Herschel.
Speaking of Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades), it was heartening to see someone who finally seemed to “get it” (along with Travis’ ex, Liza), doing what needed to be done. That said, he quickly turned into the strong but stubborn-to-a-fault kind of dude, who isn’t going to necessarily make the best decisions for his family. Isolating his injured wife and ignoring his daughter’s plea to band together with the others (regardless of those others’ dimwittery), is basically setting him up to be Fear’s Morgan Jones. (Clearly, his wife is being set up to die, and Daniel will have to put her down.) With the foreknowledge we have about Morgan, that’s almost enough to keep me watching Salazar — and Nick — to see the characters they grow into. Sadly though, this series still hasn’t found itself. Between the obvious set-up for a walker chase through that outdoor maze, to the military showing up at the exact right moment to save Maddie’s neighbor from his wife; there’s a world of difference between TWD’s naturally tense moments, and Fear’s entirely-too-slow hospital drive-by, and contrived conveniences — like Daniel’s wife being easily extracted from the falling rubble, and removed to Travis’ untouched, handily nearby truck.
Ultimately though, it’s the characters who are the problem with Fear. For those of us slogging through these beginning episodes, trying to find a sign there’s something worth hanging on for, we need characters who react to their surroundings in a some sort of rational way. Whether or not they know what we know, at the very least, the adults should be smarter than horror film teens.